An analysis of the stage adaptation of Die mugu (Etienne Leroux) by Pieter Fourie as creative rewriting: a genological study

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Pieter Fourie is widely regarded as a central figure in Afrikaans drama. He debuted with realistic (even naturalistically tinged) plays that align to some extent with the realistic prose tradition, notably reminiscent of Jochem van Bruggen, whose Ampie brings to mind the feeble-minded character Faan. Die proponentjie (1987) also is a tribute to the farce tradition in Afrikaans literature. A true expert in all facets of drama – as an actor, set designer, director, and manager – Fourie progressively tested the limits of the theatre in his sustained experimentation with (especially) postmodern plays and productions. Afrikaans literary histories emphasise the innovative, postmodernist nature of his work, including the deconstruction of hegemonic structures, subversion of genre conventions, and intratextuality and intertextuality in many of especially his later plays (Antonissen, Brink, and Odendaal 2016:163; Coetser 2016:259, 260, 262). One of the slogans of postmodernism is “everything goes” and this movement (some would term it a period) signifies the dismantling of hierarchies and the breaking of boundaries, resulting in the blending of “higher” and “lower” forms of culture – often referred to as “mixing”. Even genre boundaries are no longer seen as definitive. This study references several theorists, such as Cohen (1997), Hutcheon (2004), and Mukarovský (1977), who maintain that this instability undermines even the traditional distinction between the three main genres: poetry, prose, and drama. This is epitomised by Fourie, even through the inclusion of ballets in Koggelmanderman (2003).

Fourie shared a close friendship with Etienne Leroux and already adapted (a part) of Leroux’s novel Magersfontein, o Magersfontein! (1976) into Gert Garries – ’n Baaisiekel-blues in 2002. This play was widely regarded as a successful rewriting or “translation” of a (part of a) novel. Fourie’s dramatic adaptation of Leroux’s novel Die mugu (1959) followed in 2003, but it was never staged or published. The reasons are explained in this study and the play is also made available for perusal by students and researchers alike. Fourie’s choice of Die mugu was not arbitrary. His preference for a Leroux text lies in the significant dramatic quality he discerned in Leroux’s works, as revealed in a personal interview. This specific novel by Leroux indeed possesses inherent dramatic qualities, featuring well-defined characters with distinctive and characterising dialogues, often in different registers. It includes several short episodic dramatic scenes (such as the tavern scene, Gysbrecht’s initiation on the beach, and the almost cinematic closing scene where even sound plays a significant role). Additionally, this novel is the first (and perhaps only) Afrikaans novel where the ducktails (or “eendsterte”, as Leroux described them in his novel), a cult group from the 1950s, occupies a central place. At that stage of his career as writer, Leroux was well versed in the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychologist and former pupil of Sigmund Freud, and especially his views on the collective unconscious and mythology. Leroux was intrigued by the phenomenon of dying or dead myths and illustrated this by a contemporary example, namely the ducktails. Fourie was well acquainted with this sub-group and played an important role in introducing Leroux to them in Bloemfontein’s Cecil Hotel where he sat unobtrusively while listening to their conversations and their typical expressions. These were later incorporated into the dialogues in his novel, Die mugu (Kannemeyer 2008:271).

This article compares Etienne Leroux’s novel Die mugu (1959) and its adaptation, Die mugu deur Etienne Le Roux. Verhoogverwerking deur Pieter Fourie,1 which was stage adapted by Fourie in 2003. Tangential points in the writings of Leroux and Fourie become clear focusing specifically on the use of language, characterisation and intertextuality.

Adaptation theories and theatre semiotics are employed to analyse and evaluate this creative rewriting. Without attempting to generalise, a careful comparison between these two texts demonstrates how certain typical narrative techniques (including the use of an auctorial narrator, stream of consciousness technique, descriptions of spaces and characters) manifest in the dramatic equivalent, namely Fourie’s adaptation. This reveals that even with a postmodernist like Fourie, conventional genre features persist and apparently are inherent in the three traditional genres. This integration of specific narrative techniques into typical dramatic procédés is referred to as “mediation”. Within this mediation, deductions are made about inherent genre characteristics concerning the dramatic and narrative genres and their conventions. In the reading process of an adapted text, the reader unconsciously engages with the different genres and the unique features that appear in the adapted form. Forming certain presuppositions influenced by their experience with other (similar) texts, the reader has certain expectations of the text, comparable to Jauss’s Erwartungshorizont (“horizon of expectation”). Genre indications such as “novel”, “drama”, “autobiography”, etc. play a determining role in these expectations as the reader entertains certain preconceptions of specific genres. Recognising certain genre conventions in the original text actually becomes a prerequisite for finding meaning in the new text. The article concludes that Fourie largely respects established features. For Fourie, this is possible because both genres, by their nature as narrative genres, are related, and their differences are found primarily in material and form.

In his adaptation or transformation, aspects of transmediality are cryptically presented, and theatre semiotic strategies are likewise discussed within the translation process. Furthermore, the study of this “test case” illustrates that adaptation/processing/rewriting is always a form of translation. Consistent with prevailing theories, it is found that the source text should not necessarily be seen as hierarchically more important than the target text. What takes precedence is that translation (as an overarching term) is the transference of one text into another semiotic system. Thus, the focus is truly on the strategies employed rather than just their success, although the latter is hardly avoidable. The findings of this investigation indicate that the mutual characteristics of drama and prose ultimately boil down to two distinct (semiotic) systems – in other words, what is narrated in prose is enacted or presented in drama. The ultimate focus lies in how narrative elements are dramatically embodied.

Keywords: adaptation theory; creative rewriting; dramatic transformation; genre conventions; intertextuality; literary cross-over; novelistic and dramatic representation; theatre semiotics


Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans:

’n Ontleding van die verhoogverwerking van Die mugu (Etienne Leroux) deur Pieter Fourie as kreatiewe herskrywing: ’n genologiese studie

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